Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Jessica Faust over at the BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency blog posted about idea theft on Monday. So, you know the drill - hop on over there and read her excellent post, as well as the comments.

The question asked of Jessica was . . . the idea – the spin – was something new and different, and putting it out there for contests would leave it open to idea stealing.

Her response . . . an idea is not copyrightable, so yes, someone could steal your idea, but what really matters in the end is the execution.

Another thing that stood out for me . . .

If your idea is brilliant, but you aren’t able to execute it as brilliantly, it’s not brilliant.

Her challenge to the readers of her blog . . . is for them to actually define “idea” when it comes to your book.

The main point that stuck in my mind is . . .

I think you need to focus on making the execution of your idea more brilliant than anyone else could ever make their execution.

I mean, whoever thought of taking their idea and making it brilliant. Ha!

We all know, or at least we should, that there are a finite number of ideas out in Storytelling Land. Ideas aren't in endless supply. The execution of ideas (I love, love, love that phrase) are in endless supply.

So, you see, I have this idea for a book about a group of friends . . . Well, there are tons of books out there about a group of friends. The idea isn't original. The way I wrote the story is, at least in my opinion, original. I took my initial idea and expanded on it, again, and again, until I created something similar to The Friday Night Knitting Club (a group of friends gathering together, supporting each other, and loving each other, etc.), but different because it doesn't involve knitting, it doesn't involve women friends of various ages, and doesn't deal with . . . well, I'm not going to give away the end. You can just pick up the book by Kate Jacobs and find out what happens for yourself.

The point is, I took the idea challenge (way before I knew about it, I must have been having a psychic moment) and crafted my own unique take on an idea that's been done before, and before, and before, and before, and . . . will be done after, and after, and after, and . . .

We, as writers, must take our ideas, shape them, hone them, polish them, and make them stand out from the generic idea into a brilliant idea that takes into account the premise of the idea and adds depth of character, setting, situations, conflict, drama, and a bit of unpredictability!


p.s. you better have checked out the blog post.


Carol Anne Strange said...

A great post, Scott! I completely agree that it's all in the story's execution. Thank you to you (and Jessica) for that reminder! :)

Tess said...

Very well said and so true. I have a friend who watches a lot of classic movies (old black and whites) when she is thinking about new story ideas. Then she'll take general themes and make them her own. I love her writing, so there must be something to it!

Rebecca Knight said...

I read that post and came away with the same thing :). Especially in Fantasy it seems everything is the great fight between Good and Evil. But who cares? What a great subject!

We can all share :). I just have to make mine more amazing than all the rest!

Great post, Scott!

Robyn Campbell said...

Hmmm, I think I really executed my idea for Seventy Two Hours to the highest degree. :) And I KNOW an agent will think that too.

But you and Jessica touch on a great subject. It's dangerous these days. You never know when your idea might be copied. So make it the absolute BEST it can be and no worries. Yours will be the one they want. :) I'm heading over there now. :)

Davin Malasarn said...

Scott, this is a great post. I am familiar with this concept because I have to polish my ideas all the time. My initial inspirations are always so mundane! I'll see someone jogging, or someone putting lotion on their hands, and suddenly I want to write about it. So, I have to be willing to expand on that initial mundane thing to write anything interesting. It is great advice! And, I love that line about brilliance.

ElanaJ said...

Oooh, the idea challenge. I think this is beyond true. I know people who have taken old legends and found great success because they made them into something new.

Scott said...

Carol Anne - we're all at the mercy of our own creativity . . . and brilliance. An example of this is the Broadway play "Into The Woods" which took the fairy tales of childhood and adapted them to an adult, musical format.

Tess - I'm often inspired for my writing when reading. So, I keep on reading, because I know that somewhere within the words of the book inspiraton lurks.

Rebecca - great minds . . . and all that jazz. : ) It's not necessarily just Good and Evil, but what happens in between. Make the in-between the gourmet peanut butter!

Robyn - since every idea has already occurred, aren't we all copying the original idea makers? I always worried about putting too much out there. Now, not so much. I mean, who could ever come close to my brilliance . . . especially after a few margaritas? Ha!

Davin - I think we all have to expand on the mundane. I mean, what happens in my mind is quite scary at times! : ) I'm a people watcher, and more often than not, the people I'm watching inspire my writing. I recently put a scene into a book about a lone man on the dancing floor, dancing like nobody was watching. Why? Because I saw that one night when I was out and I thought "I could never do that, but bravo to him".

Elana - see my comment above to Carol. I think everything boils down to the writer's execution. If a writer does it poorly . . . Well, those are the books that sit idly on the shelves desperately hoping someone will buy them before the lights in the bookstore go off at night. It's kind of like when I was single, and didn't want to still be in the bar when the lights came on at the end of the night. : )


Kim Smith said...

Thanks for the post and the inspiration to make that idea the best.

Jennifer Shirk said...

It's so true. Some of the best books are just reused storylines with the author's own twist on them. :)